Statement of Solidarity with the Graduate Employees Organization – UAW Local 2322 at the University of Massachusetts Amherst

The Graduate Workers of Columbia-UAW organizing committee stands in solidarity with graduate workers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst (GEO-UAW 2322) who have been in negotiations with the University administration for almost two months to ensure decent working conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

Along with graduate workers across the country (for example, at NYU and here at Columbia, the University of Arizona, and Oregon State University), GEO-UAW 2322 are demanding Fall 2020 job security, summer employment, legal support for international students, and a stay on evictions from graduate housing.

This pandemic has worsened the economic insecurity that graduate workers have long been subjected to. Graduate workers on visas, with disabilities, and with families and dependents are particularly vulnerable at this time, as this petition and a recent “Reverse Town Hall” with around 200 participants made clear.

Many international students currently have little to no support as pandemic-related xenophobia and racism not only exclude them from state and federal support but make them vulnerable to deportation, imperil their ability continue their degrees and research at UMass, and position them as targets of acts of discrimination and violence. Just this week, graduate workers living in Amherst were shot at twice in 24 hours outside their own home by violent anti-Asian neighbors. We call on UMass to take a stand against xenophobia in the community, commit to fair and good-faith bargaining, and to recognize the needs of graduate workers.

Finally, we support the many grad workers who, due to the nature of these extreme circumstances, poor internet access, and a stressful work environment, have been unable to submit their grades on time. TAs and TOs worked hard over Spring Break – their much-needed vacation days – to support the University’s abrupt transition to remote learning. UMass Associate Provost for Academic Personnel told workers that they could take vacation time at a later date to compensate for their lost days off. We stand with the 700 UMass Amherst graduate workers who collectively requested vacation for the week of May 11-15, and condemn the university administration’s intimidation of student workers for making these vacation requests. The administration must allow workers to take the vacation days to which they are entitled. Anything other than this is a gross failure of the administration. It is imperative that UMass Amherst support its student workers, especially in this time of crisis and need.